USMEF chef competition showcases U.S. Pork in Vietnam
By USMEF staff
Vietnam is an emerging market for U.S. pork, and as such has been identified as a target market for efforts of the U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) along with the Indiana Soybean Alliance, the Indiana Corn Marketing Council and the National Pork Board. A centerpiece of these joint marketing efforts, the Porkstars chef competition, returned recently for a second season in Vietnam.
Top chefs from across Vietnam competed in preparing dishes featuring U.S. pork as the centerpiece, seeking to be named the 2023 Porkstar.
The competition, supported by the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council, was first held in 2022, bringing 30 leading chefs to Ho Chi Minh City to compete head-to-head. In season two of Porkstars, more than 100 chefs submitted pork recipes for consideration.
The top 20 chefs recorded videos of their creations, which were featured on USMEF social media. Public feedback, with input from culinary experts, whittled those entries down to eight finalists who competed in a live streaming competition to select the ultimate Porkstar.
The social media aspect of the competition was added this year to expand the reach of the innovative recipes and to amplify the message of the quality, taste and affordability of U.S. pork.
Opportunities in Vietnam
The Vietnam market was targeted because its economy is picking up steam, opening new opportunities in a country where pork is already a vital part of the diet with annual per capita consumption near 60 pounds.
“Pork is already the preferred meat in Vietnam and as incomes rise, demand will grow for high-quality pork,” said Le Van Anh Tu, Vietnam representative for USMEF. “But we definitely have work ahead of us, as Vietnam is a price-sensitive market and consumers typically think of imported pork as lower-quality. So we are working to differentiate U.S. pork through chefs and other influencers on social media.”
That work is paying off, with exports of U.S. pork to Vietnam up sharply in 2023. Through July, the U.S. has shipped 2,666 metric tons (mt) of pork and pork variety meat to Vietnam, a 32 percent increase during the same period a year ago.
In fact, the entire ASEAN region is seeing growth in U.S. pork purchases this year, with a remarkable 51 percent increase in volume on 2022. In addition to Vietnam, shipments are trending higher to the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Recent forecasts from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development state that from 2022 to 2030, pork consumption in Vietnam will grow 3.1 percent per year to around 3.4 million mt. Consumption of chilled meat is increasing sharply thanks to convenience and quality factors.
Courtney Kingery, CEO of Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council, said shifting demographics are creating new opportunities in Vietnam’s retail sector.
“With more people working and more women working, they don’t have time to go to the wet markets to get their meat,” she said. “So you see a lot more consumers going into what we would consider more traditional Western markets. And at Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Marketing Council, we’re happy to be part of telling that story about how U.S. grown and raised pork really meets consumers’ needs.”
Building demand for U.S. pork
Recipes generated through the Porkstars competition will be promoted through USMEF to build demand for U.S. pork in a region where it faces stiff competition. Domestic pork production in Vietnam is still characterized mostly by small-scale producers. That pork production capacity was devastated by African swine fever beginning in 2019, opening the door to more pork imports.
U.S. pork has achieved gains despite a competitive disadvantage, as many countries enjoy more favorable tariff status. Russia, which has been a leading supplier of pork into Vietnam, enjoys zero duty access to the country thanks to an agreement with the Eurasian Economic Union. Canadian and European pork enter Vietnam at reduced duty rates.
This is why U.S. pork must be differentiated by its quality and the reach of the social media influencers and chefs featured in the Porkstars competition is key. Chefs featured in the competition impact grocery buying decisions and help carry the message of the quality and value of U.S. pork products while showing the ease of use in creative new recipes.
Overall, U.S. pork is enjoying strong export growth in 2023, with global sales volume up 13 percent on last year and export value up 10 percent.